Atua Cowboys

February 11 - March 12, 2014

John Pule




Not averse to a bit of cowboy himself, John Pule spent six months as writer-in-residence in the English Dept at the University of Canterbury during the second semester of 2013. Whilst in Christchurch composing short stories and editing new poems, time out comprised the occasional second-hand shop rifling through boxes of old records. In his sights were albums from the 50's and 60's - covers selling Polynesian music with pretty girls and dreamy landscapes, anything suggesting the Church and the divinely inspired, and good old personal favourites like Maria Callas, Strauss, Kamahl and Harry Belafonte.

Godspell  The City Slickers Visit Hawaii  Kamahl
This collection became Atua Cowboys, with each cover having a word or phrase in Niuean (and sometimes English) added by Pule in red oil-stick over the top. The commentary is mostly humorous: Callas sings Te Po, Belafonte is simply Atua, and a suspiciously Asian looking young Hawaian woman is mei lei. In other words, fictions of advertising and representation are playfully exposed. At other times, Pule is more mischievous, particularly around institutions such as the Church. The Incomparable Mormon Choir (the Church in which Pule was baptised) is labelled Atua Cowboys, an Anthology of Christian Poetry and Prose is associated with ejaculations, and CHCH Boys' High (A School Makes Music) becomes a School of Scientific Racism.

The Incomparable Mormon Choir  Christchurch Boys High  An Anthology of Christian Poetry and Prose

So it is an idiosyncratic and light-hearted collection. But it is typically Pule in the conjunction of image and text, its searing indictment of the place of the Church in the Pacific, and its obvious love of women. For Pule, theirs is glamour both real and imagined, deeply alluring, and often wondrously fictional.
Fresh and Fancy Free   South Pacific  Swan Lake
All works in this series are oil stick on found record covers, signed by the artist verso.
The Canterbury University Press is delighted to announce the publication of a new edition of
The Bond of Time: An Epic Love Poem, by John Puhiatau Pule. The Bond of Time is an 88 page epic poem composed as a lyrical address from a lover to his beloved, and is also Pule's love song to Polynesia. The Bond of Time will be launched at 5.30pm Thursday 27th March 2014, by Jeffrey Paparoa Holman at Te Ao Mārama, located on Arts Road, University of Canterbury, Ilam.
Copies of the book will also be available at the opening of John Pule Print Launch, 5.30pm Friday 28 March, at Papergraphica, 192 Bealey Ave, Christchurch.